2011 Clemson Preview – Offense
Clemson OT Landon Walker
Clemson OT Landon Walker
Posted Jul 2, 2011

CollegeFootballNews.com 2011 Preview - Clemson Tiger Offense

Clemson Tigers

Preview 2011 - Offense

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What You Need To Know: Dabo Swinney's biggest offseason addition may have been coordinator Chad Morris, who drew rave reviews at Tulsa. The Clemson offense will never be the same. Morris will be installing an up-tempo, at times no-huddle attack that changes pace and keeps defenses on their heels. It's a system that runs more plays, changes pace liberally, and is ideally balanced. Morris inherits a team with potential and a lot of youth. Tajh Boyd is the key, a former blue-chip recruit who's set to take the reigns at quarterback. His best weapons are RB Andre Ellington, WR DeAndre Hopkins, and TE Dwayne Allen, a trio of All-ACC types. All eyes, however, might be on the offensive line, which needs to replace LT Chris Hairston and prepare for different blocking schemes. Whether or not the Tigers are more potent will depend on how quickly the kids digest the new playbook.

Returning Leaders
Passing: Tajh Boyd
33-63, 329 yds, 4 TDs, 3 INTs
Rushing: Andre Ellington
118 carries, 686 yds, 10 TDs
Receiving: DeAndre Hopkins
52 catches, 637 yds, 4 TDs

Star of the offense: Junior RB Andre Ellington
Player who has to step up and become a star: Sophomore QB Tajh Boyd
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore WR DeAndre Hopkins
Best pro prospect: Ellington
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Ellington, 2) Hopkins, 3) Junior TE Dwayne Allen
Strength of the offense: Playmaking backs, tight end, pass protection
Weakness of the offense: Inexperience at quarterback, left tackle, run blocking, converting in the red zone


State of the Unit: The Kyle Parker experiment is over. The Tajh Boyd era is about to get off the ground. Parker flamed out in his second year as the starting quarterback, wisely realizing that his time would be better served on the baseball diamond. There's no telling if he would have been beaten out Boyd this fall anyway. The Tigers' big catch of 2009, he's been itching at the opportunity to let loose and lead the offense. The 6-1, 230-pound sophomore, with the powerful right arm, made seven appearances last year, going 33-of-63 for 329 yards, four touchdowns and three interceptions. A gifted all-around athlete, he needs to evolve as a passer, honing his mechanics, footwork, and reads.

Boyd better remain healthy because he's likely to be backed up by a true freshman. The Tigers brought in two good ones in the latest recruiting class, 6-4, 200-pound Cole Stoudt and 6-1, 190-pound Tony McNeal . Both participated in the spring, with Stoudt building an early lead. While McNeal has more athletic upside, Stoudt impressed the coaches with his size, arm, and approach to the game.

Watch Out For … Boyd to struggle in the early going. He's an exciting player, but he's also raw as a passer and digesting a completely different offense. He needs to become more comfortable in the pocket, a process that could take the first month of the season, if not longer.
Strength: The future. Clemson has three former coveted high school recruits on the roster. And not one has fewer than three years of eligibility remaining. Not only are the best days ahead of Boyd, but Stoudt and McNeal are already on campus and have taken part in spring drills.
Weakness: Game experience. Along with youth and inexperience come too many unforced and mental errors. No one on the roster has ever started a game, and the understudies are likely to be true freshmen. If Boyd gets dinged up, one of those rookies is going to endure a baptism by fire.
Outlook: There's understandable excitement and trepidation when it comes to the quarterback position this season. Boyd's star potential also comes with a dearth of relevant experience and concerns about his consistency under center. It's a pivotal year under center, though the biggest returns might not start coming until 2012.
Unit Rating: 7

Running Backs

State of the Unit: The thunder half of the backfield, Jamie Harper, surprisingly left early for the NFL Draft, but the lightning portion has more eligibility remaining. Now, the coaching staff is keeping its fingers crossed that he stays healthy for the entire year and can shoulder the load for a group that's going to be a little young and a lot thinner.

Junior Andre Ellington was headed toward an All-ACC second season, when he suffered a toe injury that basically shut him down after seven games. At that time, he'd rushed for 686 yards and 10 scores, adding a dozen catches for 109 yards and another touchdown. When healthy, he's a 5-10, 190-pound flash out of the backfield, who gets to second gear in a hurry and is a threat to go the distance whenever he gets in space. Overlooked because of the injury, he could be a national breakout star, especially with Harper gone and the offense likely to lean on the running game.

Among the backups, 5-9, 185-pound sophomore Roderick McDowell is suddenly a veteran. He was third on last year's team, going for 161 yards and a score on 32 carries. More of a change-of-pace, he lacks the physicality to be an every-down runner. He'll have to look over his shoulder at a pair of redshirt freshmen, 6-0, 220-pound Demont Buice and 5-11, 190-pound D.J. Howard . A power back, Buice rushed for a team-high 102 yards in the spring game.

Watch Out For … incoming freshman Mike Bellamy . Fair or not, he's already being labeled as the second-coming of former Tiger great C.J. Spiller. Offered by heavyweights, such as USC, Alabama, and LSU, he has blinding speed and will make people miss in the open field. Sound familiar?
Strength: Playmakers. In Ellington, McDowell, and eventually Bellamy, Clemson will have three speedsters, with the moves to make defenders look silly in the open field. The staff will have its choice of homerun hitters, presenting headaches to opposing defenses.
Weakness: Power backs. When Harper packed his bags and bolted for the pros, it left the backfield without a true grinder to move the sticks in short yardage. As talented and exciting as this group can be, only Buice is north of 200 pounds. That could also create some touches for the fullback, bulldozing veteran Chad Diehl , which is being phased out of the new attack.
Outlook: Assuming the toe is fine, there's no cap to how high Ellington might ascend this season. He's that good. Plus, he'll be operating in a new system that affords the backs wide running lanes to navigate. The backups are decent, but could explode if Bellamy is as good as advertised and arrives prepared and ready to work.
Unit Rating: 8


State of the Unit: Seven of the top eight pass-catchers from last year are back, giving the Tigers a deep and experienced crew of wide receivers and tight ends. After leaning on youth for the past few years and having to rebuild in 2010, Clemson is poised to turn the corner in the receiving corps and give ACC defensive backs fits.

The young star of the group is 6-1, 195-pound sophomore DeAndre Hopkins , a Freshman All-American and the program's leading receiver in his first year on campus. A good all-around athlete, with excellent ball skills, he debuted with 52 catches for 637 yards and four touchdowns. If he can improve his quickness and bring it every down, he'll be one of the ACC's top wideouts.

While suspect quarterback play has somewhat limited his potential, 6-4, 255-pound junior Dwayne Allen remains a rising star at tight end. One of the position's top recruits of 2008, he's started 14 straight games and caught 33 balls for 373 yards and a touchdown a year ago. A unique threat as a receiver, he has the athletic skill set to beat linebackers down the seam or in the flat, and has a tremendous work ethic.

Bucking to join Hopkins in the lineup is 6-2, 200-pound junior Jaron Brown , a letterman in each of the last two years. While not the fastest receiver on the team, he has nice size and runs good routes, catching 32 balls for 405 yards and three touchdowns a year ago. The staff is hoping that a couple of former top recruits can begin fulfilling their lofty potential. Senior Marquan Jones has all of the physical tools for success, blending great speed in a 6-0, 195-pound frame, but topped out with just 21 catches for 184 yards in 2010. One of the top recruits of 2009, 6-1, 180-pound sophomore Bryce McNeal has all of the tools to become a star. He's explosive and has soft hands, starting three games and catching 19 balls for 187 yards as a rookie. Watch Out For … the newcomers. Clemson's haul of receivers in February was among the best in the country. Out of Martavis Bryant , Charone Peake , and Sammy Watkins , at least one of these young Tigers is going to fly up the depth chart in the summer.
Strength: Athleticism. It's been the trademark of this group for years. While the Tigers may not have the fastest collection of pass-catchers in the ACC, they're loaded with agile playmakers who can soar above defensive backs and make sharp cuts for additional yards.
Weakness: Consistency. The Tigers still have a long way to go regarding the little things, like running tight routes, avoiding body catches, and blocking downfield. With the expected influx of youth on the outside, inconsistency and rookie mistakes will continue to plague the receivers.
Outlook: The Clemson receivers are heading in the right direction. However, it's still a raw unit that will be unstoppable one week and unbearable the next. Hopkins is a bona fide star, Allen is an underrated tight end, and those young receivers are tantalizing. If they can put it all together, it's going to immensely help the development of untested QB Tajh Boyd.
Unit Rating: 7.5

Offensive Line

State of the Unit: New line coach Robbie Caldwell, Vandy's head coach in 2010, inherits a veteran offensive line returning four starters. The unit's biggest objectives in the offseason will be to settle on a fifth starter and adjust to a faster paced offense that incorporates substantially more snaps than in the past. The line did a fair job in 2010, excelling in pass protection, but struggling at times to bully opponents off the ball.

Who replaces Chris Hairston, the Tigers' first team All-ACC left tackle? It's a loaded question for the offense. Coming out of spring, the edge belonged to 6-5, 300-pound senior Phillip Price , a career backup with a pair of letters. A former walk-on with a great work ethic, he's added weight and maintained uncommon athleticism. Right behind him is 6-4, 300-pound sophomore Brandon Thomas, who was being groomed as Hairston's successor and is an even better athlete than Thomas. At right tackle is 6-6, 310-pound senior Landon Walker, a long-time starter and a physical blocker who has improved each year. More steady than spectacular, he's one of the line leaders.

No changes are expected on the inside from a year ago. Junior Dalton Freeman will once again be the team's center. The 6-5, 285-pounder is fundamentally sound and surprisingly light on his feet for such a long interior lineman. The guards will be 6-5, 315-pound senior David Smith and 6-5, 330-pound senior Antoine McClain on the left and right side, respectively. Different type players, Smith is arguably the line's most agile athlete while McClain is a mauler who'll need to maintain his conditioning throughout the season. Senior Mason Cloy is the most versatile and dependable of the backup interior linemen. The 6-3, 295-pounder has lettered three times and played 1,538 career snaps, filling in nicely at both guard and center.

Watch Out For … Smith to get a long, hard look at left tackle if Price and Thomas don't deliver. He has the requisite size, reach, and footwork to protect the quarterback's blindside, which explains why he got some reps at the position in the spring. If the move were to happen, Cloy would elevate up a notch and fill the void.
Strength: Pass protection. Yeah, even without Hairston, Clemson ought to be tough to penetrate around the edge. This area has been the strength of the Tiger front wall for the past two seasons, and the current group has the necessary footwork and athleticism to keep the pocket clean.
Weakness: Physicality. The line needs to do a better job of lining up and blowing the other man off the ball. It didn't happen often enough last season. Despite harboring a pair of future NFL backs, Clemson was just 79th nationally on the ground and averaged less than four yards a carry. Depth is another area of potential concern.
Outlook: Solid, but not spectacular. The Tigers are a veteran group on the first team, but will be very young after that point. Left tackle is a possible sore area, depending on the play of Price and Thomas, though the interior of the line is a solid area that will be leveraged. Conditioning is another priority as the offense leans toward a more up-tempo pace.
Unit Rating: 7.5

- 2011 Clemson Preview | 2011 Clemson Offense
- 2011 Clemson Defense | 2011 Clemson Depth Chart
- Clemson Previews  - 2010 | 2009 | 2008 | 2007 | 2006